ACC Network creates an opportunity for expansion to 16

Sep 3, 2015; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; The ACC logo is painted on the field at BB&T Field home of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 3, 2015; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; The ACC logo is painted on the field at BB&T Field home of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports /

What does the partnership between the ACC and ESPN mean for expansion?

As you most likely know by now, ESPN and the ACC are combining forces to create a television network dedicated to ACC athletics. This ACC Network will launch in August of 2019, running through the 2035-36 academic year. In conjunction with the television network, all schools have agreed to extend their grant of rights with the conference until 2036, including Notre Dame.

The most intriguing aspect of extending the grant of rights comes along with the Fighting Irish. If the Irish were to join a conference for football before 2036, they would be obligated to join the ACC.

Adding Notre Dame football would be a huge boost for the ACC. It would also leave the conference with 15 members, an odd number for a conference.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /

The logical plan would be to add a 16th school to the conference, creating a balanced ACC.

Immediately, questions pop up if Notre Dame joins fully, when?

Also, who comes into the league if they pursue a 16th team?

The initial question has no indefinite answer. With that being said, Fox Sports Tim Brando believes the Irish are not far off from forgoing football independence.

Last month, Brando thought the ACC Network would be the driving force behind Notre Dame joining the ACC for football.

He said this on The Audible with Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel.

"“Notre Dame as an individual institution, maybe a few years ago a deal like the one they have with NBC was a seminal moment in broadcasting and sports for a school to have its own network television deal. That’s not true anymore. That was before the SEC was raking in all of this cash, and before [Big Ten commissioner] Jim Delaney was able to put a deal together like the one he did with FOX and still has a looming second tier to negotiate. As a conference, you are stronger than any one institution, and yes that does include the great Notre Dame.”"

He argues that the revenue generated by the television deal is too attractive to ignore. Back in early June, Brando believed that in three years the ACC Network would be created and Notre Dame would join fully.

Brando was right about an ACC Network in three years, but only time will tell if he is correct about Notre Dame’s conference affiliation.

Hypothetically speaking, if the Irish were to join the conference, putting the ACC and an uneven 15 full members, who would the ACC add?

One immediate school that comes to mind is Connecticut.

The UConn Huskies were strongly considered a favorite to join the ACC when the Big East imploded. The ACC had planned to add Syracuse and UConn, originally wanting the Huskies over Pittsburgh and Louisville. Instead, Boston College blocked the addition of Connecticut due to a dormant grudge originating from BC’s departure from the Big East.

“We didn’t want them in,” former Eagles AD Gene DeFilippo said to the Boston Globe. “It was a matter of turf. We wanted to be the New England team.”

Connecticut would bring a powerful basketball program on both the men’s and women’s side in addition to improving the ACC’s presence on television sets in New York City.

Dec 22, 2014; Bridgeport, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies mascot on the court during a break in the action against the Columbia Lions during the second half at Webster Bank Arena. UConn defeated the Columbia Lions 80-65. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

We have seen how a New York presence has helped the Big Ten. USA Today reports revenues jumped 33% since adding Rutgers and Maryland.

UConn’s football program is nothing to write home about, but the Huskies have proven in their short history they can compete with major football programs.

North Carolina fans may remember topping the Huskies in odd fashion back in 2009. Tied 10-10 late in the fourth quarter, UConn was flagged for holding in the end zone, resulting in a safety. The Tar Heels came out triumphant by a score of 12-10.

Would Connecticut even want the ACC? Rumors  floating around have UConn possibly being included in the next round of Big 12 expansion.

The ACC is a much more stable conference than the Big 12, but if the Huskies were to find a spot in the Power 5 they might not jump at the idea of bolting for the ACC.

If Connecticut isn’t the 16th member, then who would it be?

The choices are limited, but Temple also seems like a possible suitor.

The Owls are located in a major media market, have an up and coming football program, and solid basketball history.

On the flip side, Temple isn’t a huge brand like most ACC schools. Also, questions arise if people in Philadelphia truly care about Temple.

Before any expansion talk can begin, Notre Dame must be committed to joining the ACC as a full member. It seems the idea of the Fighting Irish joining a conference is more prevalent now that the ACC has its own network. Commissioner John Swofford has more money flowing in the ACC’s direction, will that be enough to convince Notre Dame?

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